Philipp Grubauer made a season-high 44 saves, including 23 in the third period, defensemen Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie scored goals and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Thursday night to make the Western Conference playoff race even tighter.
Grubauer has allowed only two goals while facing 104 shots and carrying Colorado on a three-game winning streak.
Carl Soderberg added an empty-net goal with 49 seconds left for the final margin, helping the Avalanche leapfrog idle Minnesota for eighth place in the conference standings. Colorado took a deep tiebreaker lead over Arizona, which lost Thursday, for the second wild card. Colorado and Arizona have 78 points each, and the Avalanche currently would advance based on a better goal differential. The Coyotes will play at Colorado on March 29.
Tyler Seguin scored the lone goal for Dallas with 5:01 to play. Goalie Ben Bishop’s personal winning streak ended at six games.
Dallas retained the first wild card by a four-point margin, but fell four points behind third-place St. Louis, a winning team on Thursday, in the Central Division.
The Stars killed the only power plays in a scoreless first period.
On the first power play five minutes in, the Avalanche had only one shot on goal. Shortly afterward, Bishop stopped two in-close attempts by Tyson Jost. Less than a minute later, Bishop foiled a breakaway by Nathan MacKinnon by saving a wrist shot and MacKinnon’s rebound attempt.
Colorado outshot the Stars 13-9 in the first.
Momentum shifted in Dallas’ direction in the second period – until the Avalanche scored at 17:20. Samuel Girard sent a pass to Johnson high in the left faceoff circle. Johnson one-timed a slap shot inside the left goalpost.
After two periods, the shots were even at 21.
Barrie scored at 5:19 of the third, sending a wrist shot from the top of the right circle in off the left post.
Seguin, frustrated by Grubauer on close-in shots, finally scored from the outside edge of the right circle.
NOTES: Johnson’s goal, his first in 20 games, came on his 31st birthday. … Barrie’s 11th goal, his fourth in the past three games, was his 300th career point. … Colorado acquired Grubauer in a trade with Washington completed during the 2018 NHL draft at the American Airlines Center, the Stars’ home ice. … Seguin’s 28th goal ended a nine-game drought.
Avalanche: Return home Saturday for the first game of a back-to-back, home-and-home series with Chicago.
Stars: Complete a five-game homestand against Pittsburgh on Saturday before taking a four-game trip to western Canada.